Air Zimbabwe strike ends; aircraft resume flights


The month-long Air Zimbabwe strike ended yesterday after government intervention, leading to a resumption of flights.

The Zimbabwean government reportedly agreed to pay striking pilots 67% of what they are owed, The Herald reports. Pilots went on strike on March 22, saying they were owed US$400 000 in unpaid salaries and allowances, New Zimbabwe reports, but further pay demands could push the bill up to more than US$9 million.
“The pilots were not getting full salaries since February 2009 after they had entered into an agreement with management that these were to be paid later as Air Zimbabwe was facing serious cash-flow problems,” a senior member of the Zimbabwe National Air Workers’ Union told The Herald.

It is not yet clear over what period the employees would be paid the money owed to them.

Acting Air Zimbabwe chief executive officer, Innocent Mavhunga, confirmed that an agreement had been reached with the pilots, Bulawayo24 reports. “I can confirm that an agreement has been amicably reached through the Ministry of Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development,” he said. However, he could not elaborate further on the agreement.
“We are pleased and relieved to announce that Air Zimbabwe pilots strike has finished,” Air Zimbabwe’s General Manager for Europe & UK David Mwenga said yesterday.

According to sources, the Zimbabwean government had agreed to release about US$4 million towards the payment of the salary arrears, but it’s not yet clear if this amount includes pay for flight attendants, engineers and other staff.

The government intervened in the strike at an earlier stage, paying US$400 000 after some of the Air Zimbabwe workers attached property to recover salary arrears amounting to US$378 000.

Air Zimbabwe is in dire financial straits and its monthly losses are now amounting to US$3.4 million, according to documents obtained by The Herald. Towards the end of last year the airline was losing an average of US$2.5 million a month. It has around US$94 million of debt.

Air Zimbabwe has pulled out of 18 of its 25 routes and reduced the number of flights per week. While the carrier reduces the number of routes it flies, foreign carriers have been taking over these routes.

Statistics contained in a 2009 report entitled Tourism Trends and Statistics, produced by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, indicate that five of the major airlines serving Zimbabwe (Air Zimbabwe, South African Airways, British Airways/Comair, Air Namibia and South African Airlink) take up 93% of the airline market share in the country. The three South African operators take up 87% of the market.